During the PHI International Dinner of 2008, all but one of the brods from PGH-TCVS were in attendance. The onlookers knew instinctively that this impressive near-perfect show had much to do with the surgery consultants’ senior brod, JoeGon.

Self-admittedly the “town crier”, JoeGon has been relentless in getting alumni brods to be more involved.  And be it consistently pressing local brods to attend stags, organizing tours for vacationing overseas brods or mentoring young resident brods, he has in a very real sense kept much of the brods locally and abroad bonded. A true PHInatic (as he wishes to be known and remembered), he has a meticulous vision for our Fraternity and is pulling out all the stops for it to become a reality.

PHINATIC. Brod JoeGon Gonzales '69A with resident brods at the 2011 UPMAS Alumni Homecoming Ball.

“PHI has nurtured me”, JoeGon says, and now he only wishes to give back. He remembers his years in the college very fondly due much to his experiences as a PHI.

It was out of perceived necessity that he joined a fraternity. He decided to join PHI during the second semester of the first year even when most of his friends already committed to the other frat. However, since only 6 of them signed-up for PHI then, initiations were postponed for the next year. They were much too expensive to undertake for only the six; as the process lasted for 1 to 2 weeks and took place mostly out of town. By the next semester, 15 more expressed interest in joining and thus there were a total of 21 of them who embarked on the initiations of 1969. He says proudly, “none of us quit.” Theirs was a batch to remember as it included the likes of Manny Agulto, Che Jamir, and Chito Maaño among many others.

Incidentally, 1969 was also the year of the founding of the Phi Lambda Delta. JoeGon recalls that “they needed another voice in the student council then” that would complement the Fraternity’s. They decided on a name that was different from Phi Kappa Mu to keep the names unique. Most of his classmates back then in class 1972 – around 2/3 – were female. Recruiting the very first sisses was thus a daunting task; and he recalls in jest that they decided on a “tactic of divide and conquer” in the process. As it turned out, the first girls who joined were diverse – “rich and poor, beauties and average-looking” – but had the common quality of being “mapuputi” (fair-skinned).

He recalls that during his time as resident brod, the Fraternity as well as the Sorority was most active. During semestral breaks, they never failed to go out of town; the camaraderie these times brought they always looked forward to. Programs such as the PHI bloodletting have been initiated; clinics in Sapang Palay were visited once a month while those in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan were visited every weekend. Their activities were undeterred even when an earthquake destroyed their tambayan or the “PHI area”, the Science Hall. He relates that it was also during this time that many alumni based in the United States started recruiting brods to practice abroad. Even back then, this he “frowned upon”. Of the ten PHIs from their class, six ended up practicing in the United States while only 4 remained in the Philippines.

It has always been this visionary brod’s advocacy that PGH graduates stay in the country to serve the people in most need of them. As a previous chair of the Regionalization Program at the UPCM, he has instituted a return-service program for applicants from the regions that are accepted into the College. More recently, he has been instrumental in establishing a similar program for all newly-accepted UPCM students.

He remembers that during his day, most of the major departments in PGH were handled by PHIs. He laments that such is no longer the case today. If he had his way, he would like to see PGH become “PHI country.” To this end, he tries to keep the brods interested and “satisfied” in their practice in PGH, especially in his own department. He recruited new graduates, trained them at the hospital, sent them for further specialization abroad for 2-3 years, and had them come back to start their own practice; 60% eventually stayed at the PGH while the rest became outside consultants.

Brod JoeGon has been a pillar of PGH. Having worked at hospitals in the United States and Canada for 5 years, he has recognized how PGH has been lacking, and has since worked endlessly to improve the quality of health care delivery at the hospital. In 1994, he has instituted a state of the art open-heart surgery program even without the support of the administration. In 1998, a Cardiac Catheter Laboratory was set up due much to his efforts. He has also dramatically expanded the training program services of his unit. Familiar with the nuts and bolts of how PGH is run, he felt that he is well-equipped to improve the hospital. He currently is the Director of the Philippine General Hospital on his second term.

A true patriot, his one regret in his career is not having had the chance to serve his hometown of General Santos City. After all, it was the shortage of doctors in this town that prompted the young brod to pursue medicine. Even at a young age, JoeGon always knew he wanted to be “like those in white coats”, having idolized doctors in his family. He wished “to alleviate the pains of others as well as their miseries.” Feeling helpless at seeing other people, especially relatives, becoming sick, he desperately wanted to be “part of the healing process.”

With regard to the future of the Fraternity, Brod Joegon is very optimistic. He says “the number and quality of those joining PHI are still something to be proud of.” He suggests though that the fraternity ought to more intensively highlight and publicize its projects and that the Phi International be more integrated in programs conceived by the resident brods.

Brod JoeGon is passionate, relentless and untiring. It comes as no surprise that already he has left a distinct and indelible mark in our college, our hospital, and our Fraternity.

 

Established in August 1933 by the UP College of Medicine's best medical students, the PHI KAPPA MU (Fraternity of the College of Medicine) continues to uphold its tested tradition of Excellence, Leadership, Service and Brotherhood in the College, University and in our country.

Through the Fraternity's ideals and pillars, her Loyal Sons continue to lead, innovate and excel in the practice of medicine worldwide and in preserving the honor and integrity of the medical profession.

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